The anti-inflammatory and utero-relaxant effects of two potent phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitors of the latest generation: cilomilast (one of the most advanced PDE4 inhibitors in clinical development, reportedly more selective for PDE4D) and compound A (which displays 12-fold greater selectivity toward PDE4B and/or PDE4A than toward PDE4D) were evaluated in human uterine smooth muscle. We first established that these compounds exhibit greater efficacy in inhibiting total cAMP-PDE activity in pregnant versus nonpregnant myometrium (Emax = 78.0% ± 3.6% and 80.3% ± 2.2% in pregnant versus 57% ± 4.7% and 70.5% ± 5.9% in nonpregnant women for compound A and cilomilast, respectively; P < 0.05 for both compounds), confirming the prominent participation of PDE4 isoforms in cAMP hydrolysis in the near-term pregnant myometrium. Using pregnant myometrial explants, we have shown that both these drugs and also rolipram, the prototype PDE4 inhibitor, produce concentration-dependent inhibition of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) release with similar potency in each case (pD2 = 8.0 ± 0.5, 7.9 ± 0.2, and 7.6 ± 0.2 for compound A, cilomilast, and rolipram, respectively). The maximum inhibition produced is 65%. Pretreatment with forskolin or 8-bromo-cAMP mimics the PDE4 inhibitor effect. Furthermore, compound A and cilomilast both produce concentration-dependent inhibition of the spontaneous contractions of myometrial strips and are more potent in pregnant than in nonpregnant myometrium (pD2 = 7.3 ± 0.7 and 8.1 ± 0.3 in pregnant versus 6.2 ± 0.9 and 6.6 ± 0.1 in nonpregnant myometrium for compound A and cilomilast, respectively; P < 0.05 for both compounds). This demonstrates that the PDE4 isoforms involved in the mechanism of contraction are different in the pregnant and nonpregnant myometrium. Our study highlights the importance of developing PDE4 inhibitors for the pharmacological management of infection-induced preterm labor.
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